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RIMPAC Leadership praises Tongan contingent participating in RIMPAC 2018

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa ,27/07/2018

The RIMPAC Exercise 2018 is wrapping up in Hawai’i, with the Tongan platoon participating in the final amphibious operations. During a visit by foreign media to RIMPAC last week, one of the leaders of RIMPAC praised the Tongan platoon participation in the exercise.

The 38 strong contingents from Tonga is quite small in number in comparison to the other foreign navies participating at RIMPAC.

However despite their size, the Fleet marine force component commander at RIMPAC – Brigadier General Mark Hashimoto from the US Marine Corps, praised the Tongan platoon following their participation in the live fire exercises.

“What we saw from the US Marine Corps perspective of the Tongan Marines in accord with the personnel exchange, the professional exchange that Admiral Alexander mentioned, was that we could learn as much from them as they could take from us. And the areas that we could learn from them was in their humility, their unity, and their faithfulness. They are incredibly faithful to our core values, honor, courage and commitment, as well as being faithful, as we say, to God, core and country, so we were very impressed by that aspect of having the Tongan marines. So we would welcome them any day, as well as any other forces like that,” Hashimoto said.

At the same time, the Commander of the combined task force at RIMPAC – Vice Admiral John Alexander also said “there is no amount of people too small, save zero, to participate in RIMPAC.”

“We are all societies that depend on free and open trade. And all that trade 90% of the trade goes by sea so having a free and open global commons with international rules and norms that we all agree on, I think are important and so building upon that at RIMPAC is an important aspect of the exercise,” Alexander said.

Although the Tongan platoon had not participated in the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief component of the exercise, this is an area that is important to the natural disaster prone country. The exercises run in this component sought to enhance the capabilities of the RIMPAC participants in this area who may provide aid to Tonga in future in the event of such a scenario.

“We had an HADR Camp that was set up over on Ford Island. We also had a multinational coordination cell which was primarily NGO’s – Non-Government Organizations -that were manning that. So the scenario kicked off, it was a 7.5 earthquake, caused a tsunami, tsunami hits, took them about 3 days to get the tents set up, so the scenario started on the 4th. By the 7th we had a multinational force, led by the Japanese running the HADR over there. So there was a series of vignettes that went through there. There was a scenario that they followed. We gave them problems, we used Google Earth to show bridges, then we Photoshop the bridge out, then it was not there anymore, so how do you get to the place, how do you bring people in. They helo-ed multiple patients to different hospitals, to the Mercy at sea. I think somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 hospitals around the area on 6 different islands,” he said.

RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise with 25 nations, 46 ships, five submarines, about 200 aircrafts, and 25,000 personnel participating in this years exercise which began on June 27th and is set to conclude on the 2nd of August. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971. The Tongan contingents are expected to return in the first week of August.

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